Summertime and the living is easy

Listen to this article

Photo above: Screen shot from YouTube video of The Who at the Isle of Wight Music Festival, 1970.

Was it last Friday when my bright and precocious five-year-old walked out of his last day of pre-school, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and a paper crown?

He likes the Hawaiian shirts — always has, ever since he was five.

Public Domain photo
Public Domain photo

He’s 17 now. He had a cigarette in the pocket of that shirt.

This morning, my sweet little four-year-old grabbed his mother’s leg and didn’t want to let go on his first day of pre-school. He had a pencil in his hand …

… and his English, Algebra and Theory of Media Arts books. He does’t need them anymore, since he just finished his freshman year of high school.

You always hear that your kids’ childhood goes by in the “blink of an eye.”

I say it’s faster. Way faster.

Let’s face it — have you blinked yet?

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

The end of the school year always makes parents pause and reflect. We lament how big the kids have gotten, how old, how close to high school, or to college, or to being gone out into the world. Yep, this time of year, that’s what parents do.

It’s our job.

But that’s not what the kids do.

As kids, we never understood why the parents were so mopey and melancholy — if we knew what that meant. We just knew they were drips.

Public Domain Photo
Public Domain Photo

But as kids, summertime is a jolt of energy, a double shot of Mountain Dew. It’s turning the radio up to 11 while it plays a song like The Who’s  … I’m FREEEEEEEEEE!!

Or later, by Tom Petty. And I’m FREEEEE. FREE FALLING …

When I was a kid, you know what was the best song this time of year? Alice Cooper, of course! “School’s Out”! For SUMMER!!

Followed by “Another Brick in the Wall.”

We don’t need no eduation …”

Followed by Springsteen’s “No Retreat, No Surrender.”

“Well, we busted out of class, had to get away from those fools, We learned more from a 3-minute record baby than we ever learned in school …”

And yes, EVERY beach Boys song. “God Only Knows.”

Ah, but while we were planning on swimming and summer jobs and bathing suits and tan lines and summer love — and summer reading list — yeah, right!! … Our parents were feeling … old.

Or older. Because the kids finished another year of school. A passing of time, which makes the kids older.

Like mine are now.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

My boys are 15 and 17 years old, and have a few things planned for this summer. Fun stuff, a little travel, but no regimented program.

When I grew up, there were a couple of kids who went away for three weeks, came back for one, went away for four more, came back and unpacked, and then went to back school.

But just a couple.

For most of us … we were free. No plans. No calendar. No concept of time. During the school year, maybe you were allowed to stay out until dark, which was like 5:30 or 6 p.m. But now? Dark could mean 8:30!!

Summer of your youth may also have been the last time that we truly didn’t know what day it was. Remember that feeling?! Of really having no idea what day it was — because you didn’t have to?

I’m not talking about that rare wonderful feeling you get now as an adult. When it’s a beautiful Saturday morning, you’ve left all the cares and worries of the office behind you, and you’re just blissfully smiling. There’s a warm breeze in the air and the sky is blue and you’re so relaxed you feel like the whole weekend is ahead of you …

…Before you realize … CRAP! It’s actually Sunday.

But no, I’m talking a kid’s summer. When you might lose a grape soda betting on whether today is Monday, or Thursday. Hell, you just don’t know! You can’t even begin to guess. You can’t even tell by what you had for dinner last night, because even the dinner menu changes during the summer! Burgers during the week, sitting outside0? PIZZA, delivered to the swim club?!

It’s anarchy!

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

Photo provided by Mike Brennan
Photo provided by Mike Brennan

At least, that’s the summer I had, growing up in suburban northern New Jersey. The days were fun, the nights were long, and summer seemed to last a whole lot longer.

Mostly, we were like Our Gang. Just roaming the streets of the neighborhood, riding bikes, swimming, playing Spin the Bottle in the woods …. the joys of summer.

We did’’t have structured plans, or scheduled summers. In fact, the whole point of summer was there was no schedule! You woke up …. not when the alarm went off … not when sunlight came in your window … not when Dad left for work. Not even when Mom started laundry, or when your brother got up on the other side of the room.

Nope, no schedule at all! School’s … out … for summer! You woke up … whenever you woke up!

Or when your friend from the next block rode his bike to your house so he could come in and tell you about what he heard might have happened last night … or who might like you … or what movie we might see that afternoon. Or to say you were going to the field to play baseball, for like seven or eight hours.

You made new friends in your neighborhood, at the swim club, maybe at some city or town-sponsored craft or sports program you did for a week or two. You fell hard for some new girl, or for some friend’s older sister, and you didn’t think one bit about school.

Unless you happened to be out with your mother at the grocery store, or in town going to the movies or the pizza parlor, and then, out of nowhere you saw … a teacher! Completely out of her element! A teacher in casual clothes — at the store?

It spun your head for days.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

So for kids, this is a great time. For parents too. Other than maybe a summer school class, there’s no homework to monitor. There’s lighter traffic in the morning. There’s barbeque smoke in the air.

Public Domain photo
Public Domain photo

There’s summer music in the radio … and the living is easy.

My kids? One finished his school last Thursday and took a flight Saturday for his annual trip to Florida. He’s hanging out with Grandma, aunts and uncles, cousins and local friends. Swimming, chilling, maybe even reading.

The other finished his last exam Tuesday morning, then jumped on a plane Tuesday afternoon to spend a week or so with his best friend in Denver.

That leaves me home alone for a few days. Figuring out long-term employment, living arrangements, plans for their schools for next year, finances, personal stuff.

In other words ….